While waiting for my home furnishings to arrive from the US, I have been living in a hotel in Herzogenaurach, Germany for the last 5 weeks. I am equipped with a two burner stove top, two pots and one fry pan. This can take a bit of creativity. Here are some of my culinary creations….
Category Archives: Culinary Explorations
While at the grocery store, I zeroed in on an heirloom tomato display. I knew I wanted to purchase one, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to make. I thought about my favorite ingredients – bread, cheese, tomatoes – and decided to make my version of a BLT…minus the “L”. Grabbing a loaf of artisan piccolo bread, 2 different cheeses, and bacon, I headed home to cook. I sliced the bread into hearty slices and drizzled with olive oil. I pan seared them and then added some fig balsamic. Next step- cheese! I shredded the main cheese called Ruth Kase Grand Cru (which is a cow’s milk cheese made in Wisconsin and melts wonderfully). On top, I shredded some pecorino with truffle to add a little flavor twist. Both cheeses topped the bread, followed by the heirloom tomato slices and bacon. I added a little cheese in between the layers to help “glue” the sandwich together and cooked in the pan until fully heated through. That little tomato inspired a delicious sandwich!
- Heirloom tomato
- artisan bread
- variety of cheeses (pick your favorites!)
- olive oil
- fig balsamic
Gathering the ingredients
Adding the fig balsamic
Layer of cheeses
Heirloom tomato slices
Grilling it up – it may look burnt, but it’s just the fig balsamic
Ready to slice
Time to dine!
I treated myself to a fresh Dungeness Crab for dinner the other evening. It was a really large crab, so I ended up with some delicious lump crab meat left over. Instead of making crab cakes, I decided to make a crab quesadilla. I mixed the lump crab meat with my favorite Mexican 2-cheese blend from Tillamook and added some chopped avocado. After heating the corn tortillas in a medium-hot pan, I added the crab mixture and topped with another tortilla. I flipped the quesadilla once to ensure the mixture was heated through and the cheese was melted. Placing the quesadilla onto a cutting board, I used a pizza cutter to slice it into quarters. The punch of the cheese paired nicely with the sweet crab and avocado. Delicious!
Mixing the crab, cheese, and avocado
Heating the tortillas
Adding the filling
Topping with a second tortilla
Ready to eat!
My friend, Laura, sent me a house warming gift of a granite molcajete. Last year, she visited me and we went to a restaurant called Oba! where they make table side guacamole using a molcajete. It was fun to watch as the waiter threw in lots of delicious ingredients and ground them into a creamy, delicious guacamole for us to devour. I thought I’d try my hand at making my guacamole in my very own molcajete. I like to keep my guacamole simple so I can savor the rich taste of avocado. Three simple ingredients: avocados, garlic, salt. Add the chips and enjoy!
First steps: cure the molcajete by grinding uncooked rice
Lots of hard work and muscle to grind it into dust, followed by a rinse in hot water
Next up: rock salt
Adding the rock salt
Ground into a fine salty dust followed by a rinse in hot water
Ripened avocados ready for smashing
The scooped-out insides of the avocados
Adding the salt and garlic
Smashed into creamy goodness
Add some chips and dig in!
Ever since I can remember, my family tradition was to eat Pork and Sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. It was said to bring good luck in the new year. And once I was married, I carried on the tradition for 13 years. After the year I have had, I thought it might be time to revisit my tradition for culinary luck in the new year. This year, I decided to try something new- to select something I like to cook and love to eat. I chose lasagna. I used a basic recipe and added some modifications. I’m not sure it will bring good luck, but I certainly enjoyed eating it!
Gathering the ingredients
The basic recipe
Browning the onions and ground beef
Boiling the noodles
Trying out a new liner to help with the clean-up
Layering the noodles
Followed by the ricotta and cheeses
Ready for the oven
Packaged individually for the freezer
Cheers and Happiness in 2014!
- 16 pieces of lasagna noodles
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 3 cups spaghetti sauce (I used Newman’s Own Sockarooni)
- 4 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup Italian blend cheese
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (I used shredded, so I just eyeballed it)
- Spicy Italian seasoning (*if desired- adds a bit of punch)
- Reynolds Wrap pan liner (*if desired- it worked well!)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Saute chopped onion until clear. Brown the beef. Add spaghetti sauce and heat through. Line 9 x 13 pan with Reynolds Wrap pan liner if desired. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture in bottom of pan. Top with 4 pieces of lasagna, overlapping the edges. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese and mozzarella/Italian cheeses over pasta. Sprinkle with Spicy Italian Seasoning. Cover with 1/4 of sauce mixture. Repeat layers twice, beginning and ending with the pasta. Spread the remaining 1/4 sauce mixture on top of pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a final dash of the Spicy Italian Seasoning. Cover with foil. Back 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 – 10 servings.
I had a craving for grilled cheese today, but wanted to put a twist on the classic. So I pulled out the provolone and mozzarella and set to work.
The trick= lots of butter on the bread!
First layer = provolone
Add the shredded mozzarella next
My secret weapon= Spicy Italian Herb Seasoning (YUM!)
Top with another slice of provolone
And the bread topper….
Grill to a toasty brown
Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and enjoy!
- bread of choice (I used Dave’s Killer Bread multi-grain)
- sliced provolone
- shredded mozzarella
- Favorite seasoning
- Favorite tomato sauce (I chose Newman’s Own Marinara)
Well, I looked at my turkey leftovers and decided to make a version of roll-ups. I believe the original recipe came from my Mom’s Welcome Wagon cookbook from Central Pennsylvania and was called “Chicken Roll-ups”. The original recipe uses chicken, cheddar cheese, crescent rolls, and cream of chicken or mushroom soup. I decided to take a Mexican twist on the original. I used turkey leftovers with a Pepper Jack/ Cheddar cheese and skipped the soup in favor of guacamole. How can you go wrong with dough, cheese, and turkey?
Tillamook Mexican 2 cheese blend
Cut up turkey and cheese
Crescent roll being rolled flat
Adding the turkey and cheese filling
Prepped for the oven
Roll-ups plated with a side of guacamole
Turkey – cut into small pieces
Mexican 2-cheese shredded (Pepper Jack & Cheddar combo)
Side of guacamole (I make my own using only an avocado, minced garlic, and sea salt)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Spray pan with cooking spray
- Cut up turkey into small pieces and combine with shredded cheese
- Open crescent rolls and roll each triangle flat
- Fill crescent roll with turkey/ cheese combo
- Roll tightly and add to pan
- Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown
- Serve with a side of guacamole (and/or salsa)
I was craving chicken parmesan last night but knew I didn’t have all of my standard ingredients. So I pulled out one of my favorite recipes and set out to see if I could make a version with the things I did have on hand. Wait- can it even be called chicken parmesan if you don’t use parmesan cheese?
the original recipe
Ingredients on hand:
- 4 chicken breasts
- corn flake crumbs
- olive oil
- provolone cheese slices
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- Newman’s Own Sockarooni sauce
- Spicy Italian Seasoning
- Preheat over to 425 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with olive oil or Pam
- Salt the chicken breasts and brush mayonnaise on all sides
- Dredge chicken through the corn flake crumbs
- Dust with spicy Italian seasoning
- Spread sauce over top of chicken
- Cut provolone slices in half and lay on top of sauce
- Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
- Top with some more Spicy Italian Seasoning (or Basil, Thyme, Oregano – mix it up, make it your own)
- Bake for 12 – 15 minutes (depending on thickness of the chicken breasts)
- Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before serving
I added a green salad and fresh baked bread with olive oil and fig balsamic for dipping. My improvised chicken parmesan hit the spot. Proof that it only takes a little creativity.
Breaded and drizzled in olive oil (I hate the look of raw chicken so I skipped showing those steps!)
adding the sauce
and now the provolone slices
topped with mozzarella
a dash of spicy Italian seasoning for good measure
melted and cheesy from the oven
It’s an Italian feast now…..
I have always enjoyed cooking and baking. Now that I am cooking for one, I find that my enthusiasm isn’t always there. I have adjusted the way I think about preparing meals and try to select recipes that tolerate freezing the leftovers. Chili is always one of those recipes that I love making. It goes hand in hand with crisp fall and winter weather just around the corner. Being the practical cook that I am, I discovered a shortcut that is absolutely delicious and you can customize it to be your very own. Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit is fantastic. The kit contains a spice packet, salt packet, cayenne pepper packet, and masa flour (for thickening). I find that the key to cooking is being able to take something – even from a box – and make it your own. Experiment. Toss in fresh tomatoes or a jalapeno pepper. Use tri-colored beans or black beans. When using a base or kit, it is really easy to alter the flavor each time you make it, yet have the security knowing that it will taste delicious in the end.
My take on chili tonight:
- sweet Vidalia onion
- lean ground beef
- kidney beans
- grilled frozen corn (cooked and cut from the cob last summer)
- marinara tomato sauce
- topped with Mexican cheese
- side of corn tortillas
Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit
cooking down the onion
browning the beef
topped with cheese and a side of tortillas
Best freezing advice ever – Ziploc freezer bags stack flat in the freezer
I like to cook. And I LOVE to bake. On rare occasions I will roll up my sleeves and create a delectable treat from scratch. On most occasions, I find a way to take shortcuts and add something special to dress it up. Hopefully this inspires you to do the same. When you add a little something to a box mix or easy recipe, I find that people respond in such positive ways. They won’t believe that you used a box because you added a bit of your creativity to it. Experiment – some will turn out deliciously (like adding butterscotch chips to milk chocolate mix) and others maybe just so-so (like adding mint chips to dark chocolate mix). We’ll start with my favorite go-to dessert: Caramel Salted Brownies.
The original Cooking Light Caramel Salted Brownie Recipe
If you click on the link above, Cooking Light will take you through some slightly time consuming steps to make the brownies from scratch. For the same impact with less exertion, I start with box brownies. You can use any kind you like – double chocolate, dark chocolate, truffle chocolate, Gluten Free – you name it! I make the box brownies and then skip to the topping section. It is a 2-step process, but it is definitely WORTH IT. I have never received so many compliments as I have for these brownies.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.
- 4. Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.
My Caramel Salted Brownies (flanked by peanut butter blondies and chocolate walnut brownies)